Rupert Sheldrake posits that if one substitutes the word quanta for “angels,” Aquinas’s angelology addresses many of the same questions that today’s quantum physics asks. “When Aquinas discusses how angels move from place to place, his reasoning has extraordinary parallels to both quantum and relativity theories.”
The issues that Aquinas deals with in relation to the movement of angels—continuity, discontinuity, action in place—are similar to the discussion about the movement of photons and other quantum particles in quantum theory. Writes Sheldrake:
Part of my interest in Aquinas’s work on angels was awakened precisely by seeing these parallels. I think the parallels arise because he’s dealing with the same question: How can something nonmaterial and indivisible move and act on bodies located in particular places?
Yet angels are distinguished from quanta insofar as they employ conscious choice in their movement per Aquinas.
In discussing angels and instantaneous movement, Sheldrake cites Aquinas who says: “The beginning is in one instant and the end in another between these there is no time at all.”
Sheldrake comments: “Let us say then that [a photon’s] movement is in time, but not in the way that bodily movements are.” Photons, like angels, can be said to exist in an eternal now where one does not grow old.
A photon can be in one place at one instant, as when light leaves the sun and another place at another instant as when the flight from the sun hits something on the earth and lights it up about eight minutes later. But from the point of view of the photon itself, no time elapses. And the photon does not age in the process.
Aquinas calls angels “beings of light.” Says Sheldrake: “It is not just a coincidence that we find remarkable parallels today between angels and the nature of light.” Aquinas reminds us that angels are cosmic beings who assist with the work of the unfolding and evolving universe. Angels are not just about guarding individuals but are instrumental in “governing the universe.”
Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution along with another scientist, Alfred Russel Wallace, and they presented their findings back-to-back at the Linnean Society of London on July 1, 1858. They were very close, but eventually separated around the question of angels.
Wallace was convinced that guiding intelligences or angels would be necessary to explain the developments of the universe, and that natural selection did not fully account for the immense creativity in nature that occurred over a very limited time period. Darwin’s position, however, resulted in “a gloomy materialism which now pervades the thinking of neo-Darwinism,” including the notion that “the universe has no meaning or purpose,” comments Sheldrake.
Adapted from Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake, The Physics of Angels, pp. 23, 104-106, 24.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: “The Annunciation” by Emily Barney is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Creative Commons.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you find yourself on Darwin’s side or Wallace’s side when you consider each one’s interpretation of evolution? What difference does it make?
The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science & Spirit Meet
By Matthew Fox and Rupert Sheldrake
When was the last time a scientist and a theologian discussed angels together? What are angels? Many people believe in angels, but few can define these enigmatic spirits. Now visionary theologian Matthew Fox and acclaimed biologist Rupert Sheldrake—pioneers in modern religious thinking and scientific theory—launch a groundbreaking exploration into the ancient concept of the angel and restore dignity, meaning, and joy to our time-honored belief in these heavenly beings.